Emily Wheeler (@heliotropia) June 21, 2013
Tag Archives: digitisations
I’m getting worse at updating the blog – it’s not unexpected though, as less new and exciting stuff happens to me these days! However, I thought I should probably just do a quick update on what’s going on with library life at the moment.
Exams and dissertation season has been and gone, and blimey, that was busy. People were banging on the doors fifteen minutes before we open, so desperate were they to get their hands on our thesis collection, and the demand for laptops was so high we had to turn people away. What amused me were the “regulars” who would come in every day for two weeks and ask for the same three theses – why didn’t they just photocopy the relevant bits?! There was also one guy who would come in every day and ask for a laptop – it got to the point where it felt like I worked in a pub (“the usual?”). There was, of course, all the stress and frustration that comes with exam season – not for me, but for the students. We had printer problems, network problems, printing credits going missing and essays disappearing. It meant I got to use all my customer service and “dealing with difficult situations” skills from those training sessions earlier in the year!
The past couple of weeks have been noticeably quieter – yesterday we probably had about 50 people come in during the day, and it’s only going to get quieter now that the majority of the students are finishing their year and going back home. We’ll still have some nursing students and postgraduates, though, so it’s not going to be completely dead, but it is noticeably different to the atmosphere a few weeks ago. It’s just so quiet! Term doesn’t finish for another three weeks, but after that we’ll be on summer vacation hours until the Autumn term starts (and I’ll be gone by then!) – three more late Wednesdays and then I’ll be on regular hours for the rest of my job. We had a team meeting the other day and it was the first time that anyone mentioned that I’ll be leaving quite soon – it was quite weird to hear that said out loud! I know that the new GTs have now been chosen, and I’m looking forward to getting put in touch with them quite soon (or at least I assume this will happen, as it did for us last year).
The other week I went to a public lecture on digital humanities, which I was expecting to be quite interesting – and it was, but not for the reasons I expected! It was about Doing things Differently: writing, academic journals and social media in the online world. It was presented by the editors of an online journal, and the blurb made mention of Open Access, which I wanted to learn more about. I’m interested in social media too, so this sounded really good. However, the actual event did not live up to expectations, and there were some mentions of “Creative Commons” which made all the library staff whistle through their teeth like builders. (Creative Commons doesn’t mean you can use any old thing off Google image search!!) It was interesting to hear about journals and OA from the perspective of two academics, but it was a bit of an eye-opener too, as I somewhat naively expected researchers (and editors of online journals) to be a lot more clued in on technology, resources and social media. It shows that there is a lot of work than can be done by libraries and information professionals to support researchers and improve their knowledge and skills when it comes to these areas.
Last week I had a surprise delivery of 120 new books – rather more than I usually get! It is nice to be able to tell the academic staff that we’ve bought all the books they wanted, though, and the monthly new books newsletter looked very impressive! We’ve used up all our budget for this year now, so the book deliveries will dry up until next term. That takes a big chunk of work out of my day, but there are other projects to be getting on with over the summer, so I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of things to do.
We’re currently running a Patron-Driven Acquisition exercise with e-books, which is where hundreds of titles get loaded onto the catalogue, and if a student clicks on one and reads it for more than five minutes it triggers the purchase of the book. Some of the titles are interesting, to say the least – we found one about Jungian theory in relation to sand. Bit odd! The purpose of the PDA is to provide more material online while the book stock at one of the site libraries is unavailable as it moves into the main library over the summer. The move is now underway and we are having to keep on the ball when it comes to sending books to other sites – books might say one thing on the system while actually needing to be sent somewhere else. Needless to say there’s a lot of signage around to keep everything straight!
Now that the academic year is coming to an end the big project is renewing all our digitised material for the next year. This is the first time we’re doing it with the new software, so it’s a big learning curve for everyone. My first task was to write out the instructions for the renewals process, which is easier said than done – we kept getting updates to the instructions as people tried them out and discovered bugs. We are now in the process of contacting all the academic staff to find out what they want us to keep – if all goes to plan then we can upload or delete the relevant files before September and get everything straightened out. This has involved two new spreadsheets so far and I’ve been using my newfound Excel skills to add fancy conditional formatting and other bells and whistles, which has been fun in a nerdy way. The whole process is just a bit weird for me though as although I’m setting up a lot of the work, chances are I won’t be able to complete it all before I leave (depending on the speed of responses from lecturers), so I won’t get the satisfaction of seeing this through to the end.
We’re coming towards the end of the stock take as well – we’ll finish scanning the shelves with the digital library assistant this week, and then it’s just a case of tying up the loose ends and getting everything to add up. It’ll be strange not having scanning to do as part of my daily tasks!
One last thing that’s happened recently is that I gained two new qualifications – I’m now a Microsoft Office Specialist in both Word and Excel. I had to sit an exam for each of them to prove I’ve got the skills, which meant a lot of quick learning of things I’d never really done before. It’s already come in handy as I have been able to “decorate” some spreadsheets with special formatting to improve their functionality. It’s a handy thing to put on a CV too, especially seeing as I haven’t got the time or money to take the ECDL, which some job applications require.
Excuse the terrible title but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ve been doing some self-reflection lately, because it is a Thing Librarians Do, and it’s good for personal and professional development and stuff. Not that I’m a professional yet, but I like to get into habits early. So I thought I’d just write down some of the things I’ve achieved so far as a Graduate Trainee, so I’ve got a record of them for later on.
I think it’s amazing to look back at what I was like when I started this job and compare that to how I am now. I have always thought of myself as someone who is quite confident and self-sufficient, but obviously when you start a new job in a field you have no experience in, you’re not going to be relaxed and confident straight away. In fact I’d go as far as to say I experienced some “culture shock” – I’ve never worked in a library or indeed any kind of office environment before so there was a lot of adjusting to be done. The development from September to now is huge – I’m a lot better at dealing with customers and their enquiries, and that’s just the start of it. I think the most important thing that’s happened is that I’ve actually learned what it is that librarians do all day. I’m not talking about any of the stereotypical images here – they don’t just stamp books, or “shh” people, and they definitely don’t sit around behind the counter reading books all day. I’ve learnt about cataloguing, book ordering, budgeting, management, teaching, stock maintenance/editing, and much more. Here are some of my highlights from the last few months:
I made some instructional podcasts! One is here and there are two more waiting to go up.
I learned to digitise articles and chapters using online software, I reorganised the filing system and wrote an instruction manual detailing the digitisation process from start to finish. I also helped with a project to stamp all the copies of books that have had chapters digitised, and record the progress on a spreadsheet. Librarians love spreadsheets.
I wrote a helpsheet about accessing theses and articles online, which is available at the enquiry and issue desks for students to take. Sadly it’s not online for me to show it off to you (but the information is).
I’m still doing this mammoth withdrawals list. It’s really useful work (so I keep reminding myself) as we prepare the library stock for the move to All Saints in 2014, as when I’m finished, we will have an accurate count of how many books are in stock here. I’ve found a few that were “withdrawn” but still sitting on the shelf, so it’s a good way of creating space and keeping things tidy.
I’ve attended training sessions which are giving me a great insight on how the library works, including ones on policies and procedures, customer service skills, presenting, teaching InfoSkills, and Endnote. I’ve also been able to go behind the scenes at Library Support Services and Special Collections to hear about the work they do.
I’ve sat in on teaching sessions, both inductions and InfoSkills, and have helped out with hands-on sections in these sessions, helping students work through the tasks we set them. In March I’ll be team-teaching a session, which I’m really excited about.
I’ve done some networking – not much, admittedly, but I am part of some groups on Facebook, connecting with other library trainees, and I follow other people’s blogs and Twitter accounts. This is all helping me get an idea of what’s happening in the wider world of librarianship, with updates from established professionals, students and other GTs. I’ve also met some library people face-to-face!
I’ve learned the basics of Talis, the library management software, and can now issue and discharge books like a pro.
I’ve created and updated reading lists, keeping them up-to-date with new books that we get in stock.
I’ve learned to receipt new books, adding them to the system and checking that their details are correct.
I’ve helped people with enquiries, which can range from “how do I use the printer” to “how can I find articles on my really obscure dissertation topic” to “where is the nearest NHS walk-in centre”.
The other day I used the typewriter for the first time. I’ve never used a working typewriter before and I quite enjoyed it – even if my first go didn’t quite work properly! Here is my first ever attempt at making a spine label for a book with the typewriter. I had to do it again after I realised I hadn’t done the letters in capitals:
I’ve probably left loads of stuff off that list, but it’s long enough already for you to get an idea of how much I’ve learned in four and a half months. I think the main thing is that I’m a lot more confident in my abilities now – I don’t have to ask other people for confirmation that I’m doing the right thing as much any more (although I still ask about the really weird stuff!). I’ve also got over my fear of speaking to people on the phone, which is handy. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with my progress and am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year will bring.
I’m (un)officially past my thirteen-week probation period, so they can’t chuck me out now! I say “unofficially” because I haven’t yet had the thirteen-week review, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t done anything so terribly awful that I’d be asked to leave.
Here’s what I’ve been up to recently:
My big project in the last couple of weeks has been sorting out withdrawn books. These are books that aren’t in the library any more, usually because they’re too old and out of date, but which still show up in the system. I’ve had a couple of enormous print-outs of spreadsheets (the current one has about 2500 items on it) to look at, and I’ve had to check the shelves to make sure that none of the books are still in the library when they shouldn’t be, and then removing them properly from the system. It’s not particularly difficult, but it is time-consuming! I’ve got through all the One Week Loan books and I’m almost done with the 2500 Reference books that don’t exist, and then it’ll be time for Lending copies. That one will take the longest, as that is the type of book that we have most of, but hopefully I’ll be able to get one of my colleagues to help out on that.
I also finished writing my instruction manual for digitisation. I spent a while doing these as I wanted them to be as clear and helpful as possible, and I got one of the Senior Library Assistants to test it out so I could make changes. I was really pleased to see it in use and I only had to add a couple of things before it was finished. I got some great feedback about it as well – it is something to put on my CV, apparently! I’m hoping this will be the start of a long and happy career showing people how to do things. On that subject, I’ve also started creating a new podcast which will show students how to use their NHS Athens accounts and the NHS resources available to them. This podcast is radically different from the last one I did, and neither of them is particularly bog-standard, but it’s the sort of challenge I enjoy and it certainly seems to be becoming one of my strong points.
I also worked with another spreadsheet last week – all the books that we digitised are supposed to be stamped with a stamp so we know not to get rid of them (which would be against CLA rules). However, most of the books have more than one copy, so we compiled a spreadsheet of all the copies of books that have had chapters digitised, and then hunted them down to stamp them and cross them off the list. Lots of the books are out on loan, so we had to go onto the system to put messages on for them to be stamped when they’re returned. It’s been quite successful so far, and we’ve managed to cross off almost all the books on the list, although we’ll still be doing this in the spring as some of the books are on long loan.
Last week was also fairly dramatic in a few ways – on Thursday the system went down first thing in the morning so none of the computers could issue or discharge books, and the self-service machines were also out of action. We almost had to resort to paper for the day, but luckily everything came back online about 5 minutes after we opened the doors to students.
On Friday it was deadline day for a large number of our students, so we were very busy all afternoon and the printers kept running out of paper and ink. The staplers couldn’t handle the pressure and gave up the ghost too, which was an added stress factor. Most of the students managed to sort themselves out in good time, but a couple of them left things until the last minute and we had to literally chase them out of the darkened building at closing time. That definitely didn’t help any of our blood pressures!
We’ve also had a number of “ghostly” goings-on this week. You may remember I’ve mentioned the ghosts before; apparently this building is haunted, although I’ve only just found out the story behind all this. The college was requisitioned by the government during the war and turned into a hospital, and the story goes that the ghosts of children can be heard running through the corridors and giggling. The other morning one of the security guards rushed into the library and said he’d heard a child scream, but there wasn’t anyone else in the building yet. This prompted a whole day of ghost stories and the attribution of recent weird happenings to “the ghosts”. The books upstairs keep getting pushed to the backs of the shelves when we’re not looking, and the display table for new books gets mysteriously rearranged every so often. Some of the library staff are convinced it’s the ghost children, as it’s the sort of mischievous thing kids would do, although there are a couple of flaws to this – a lot of the shelves are too high for children to reach, for a start. There’s also the minor ghosts-don’t-exist thing. It’s probably just bored students, although it’s a bit of a strange hobby.
To round off this post, here are a couple of things that made me laugh this week: first, a funny thing someone said to me the other day at a party. I’d just told her what I do and she said “oh, that sounds so PEACEFUL. How LOVELY.” (yes, in that exact voice) I thought, if only you knew the truth…! Yes, the library might not be full of students with enquiries all the time, but we’re always busy behind the scenes! Secondly, I noticed that someone found my blog by Googling “MMU Graduate Trainee Salary”. I hope they weren’t expecting to find me blogging about my champagne-drinking lifestyle. It’s strictly fizzy water on a GT salary!
So, we’re now into Week Ten (!) of my graduate traineeship. It’s flying by! I’m almost exactly a fifth of the way through now. I can tell that I’ve learned a lot, not only because I’m a lot more confident answering queries and working on the issue desk, but also because I wrote the world’s longest personal statement for my MA application to Sheffield (which is all done and dusted now, hooray!). I had tons of examples of attention to detail and good research skills, not to mention communication skills. Hopefully everything I’ve put down (plus the fact that I’m doing a GT-ship) will persuade them to let me study there next year.
Last week was reading week, which meant that all the students went on holiday or slept or whatever else students do on reading week (I wouldn’t know, I never had a proper one) and so the library was very quiet all week. I also finished (finally) the digitisation renewals, which meant that I had nothing on my to-do list all week either. All in all, it was quite a dull week, but I got a lot of straightening and shelving done. Things picked up towards the end of the week, as my colleague Mark has enlisted me to help demonstrate the digitisation process to the Senior Library Assistants, and we spent a good few hours showing them how to use the website to enter all the information and upload the PDFs. Although I am looking forward to being able to share the workload when it gets heavy, it did feel a bit silly telling three other people how to do it when I’d just run out of things to do myself. Luckily, on Friday afternoon a lecturer sent through some emails requesting some changes to her reading lists, which means I now have 15 new digitisations to process. Lucky me! I’ve also been tasked with writing a manual giving step-by-step instructions for the whole digitisation process, and next week I’ll be sorting out the paper copies of the digitised articles. I’ve also identified some other areas of our digitisation records that could do with a tidy-up, so I’ll be nicely busy for the next few weeks, hopefully.
Last week, after a month of working on it (on and off), I managed to record a version of my Anatomy.tv podcast that I was happy with, and which was almost under 3 minutes. I would have got it done a lot sooner if I hadn’t lost my voice! It’ll be uploaded to the library website soon, so I can share it with you and you can all hear my voice telling you how to use a database. I’ve got a new podcast to work on soon, but I haven’t been told much about it yet. Hopefully it’ll be about a database that’s a bit more conventional than Anatomy.tv, and it won’t take me ages to do all the screenshots.
A couple of weeks ago we went to an induction meeting for new university staff, which was quite good, especially the talk about the history of the university. We found out that the logo is made up of six spades representing “hard toil and entrenchment” which is… nice? Here’s a link to it so you can see for yourself. It was interesting to hear about the university’s admissions process and how student numbers have been affected by recent government changes, just for a bit of “inside information” about how it all works and the challenges faced by the administration. I still feel like a student sometimes, so to hear about what goes on behind the scenes is fascinating.
Next week I’ve got a training session entitled “Dealing with Difficult Customers” which sounds like it’s going to be really helpful, as we’ll be looking at case studies from the library and learning about policies and procedures. I sort of wish this had been our first training session, though, as we’ve had a few people in the last two months that have been difficult to deal with! It’ll be good to get some reassurance that I know what I’m doing (vaguely) when I’m on the issue desk. We’ll also be meeting some librarians from other organisations to hear about their work, which will be interesting as I don’t really know a whole lot about opportunities for librarians other than academic or public libraries.
I’m also attending a few infoskills sessions this week, which I’m looking forward to, as you get an insight into what’s going on in people’s minds as they ask all sorts of questions! It’s also good to see the different types of sessions that the library offers, be it a library induction or an in-depth look at a particular database. Plus, it’s always good to get a bit more experience!
I’m off to Chorlton tonight to hopefully catch some fireworks (not literally) which will be nice. So far this week I’ve only seen fireworks out of the corner of my eye, or from very far away, so I’m hoping I can actually get a good view tonight for once. It’s going to be absolutely freezing though!
I can’t believe the first month is over already. It’s payday! I’ve never said that before.
Yesterday was a bit stressful. Digitisations have taken over my work life to the point that all I can think about is spreadsheets and scanning things. I also got a phone call telling me that I hadn’t been receiving new books properly because I had missed out a fairly important step in the process. Not a great thing to hear. It’s all sorted now and it didn’t cause too many problems, but it’s just annoying to trip up like that. I also don’t have much counter time on Thursdays so was stuck in the back office all day, not really interacting with anyone, transferring data from a spreadsheet, to a form, to another spreadsheet, and then to another form.
Today I saw the light at the end of the tunnel – I’ve been working through a list of digitisations for a particular lecturer and at close of play today I only have one left to upload, which I would have completed if it hadn’t gone a bit wrong at 4.25pm. Hooray! Next week I get to embark on the thrilling task of going through all our digitisations and putting their details on a brand-new spreadsheet, so that we’re completely up-to-date. I tell you what, I’m going to be glad when this is all sorted and I only have the odd few to do every now and then.
I’m in Leeds for the weekend and apparently the weather’s going to be quite nice tomorrow – just what I needed after the last couple of days! I hope you’re all having good weekends too.